How to Avoid a Blue Winter
If you find yourself feeling a little sadder and less energetic than usual during the winter months, you’re not alone.
Shorter days and chilly nights can wreak havoc on your mental health. Here are a few wellness tips that can boost your mood when the days start dipping below zero.
Year Round Vitamin D Supplementation
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to lower mood. In the summer months, we can get most of our vitamin D through sun exposure—sunlight contains UVB energy, which the melanin in our skin uses to create vitamin D. Come winter however, we spend more time bundled up inside, missing out on those crucial rays. We can obtain vitamin D from foods like egg yolks, liver and fatty fish, but supplementing daily will ensure that you are getting enough D to keep your mood consistently healthy. It is important to make sure you are taking vitamin D throughout the entire year, not just the colder months. Vitamin D obtained from sunlight is not enough to see you through the transition from summer to fall. So to ensure a smooth descent into winter, keep up the vitamin D routine all year long. While most supplement bottles recommend 1000 IUs per day, holistic nutritionists recommend a minimum of 4000 IUs a day especially if you live further north. Try taking Genestra D-Mulsion Vitamin D3 Drops—two full drops in the morning and two in the afternoon. If you exceed your body’s vitamin D intake limit, you might find yourself having the same symptoms of sunstroke! Speak to a professional before starting any new supplement.
It’s definitely more challenging to motivate yourself to workout when the weather is miserable. However, regular exercise can turn your mood around almost instantly. When we exercise, our bodies release chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with specific receptors in the brain which can decrease the perception of pain. This explains the euphoria many people experience after a good workout. There is no right or wrong way to get active. Whether you take a jog through the park, or try an online dance tutorial, you’ll get a boost of happiness that will make it easy to keep up the habit.
Reduce your Stress
Those with depression or low mood tend to have increased levels of cortisol in their bodies. Cortisol is the hormone released from our adrenal glands in moments of danger or stress. When released, it stimulates our heart rate to increase and our blood pressure to rise in order to prepare for the impending threat. However, it also delays any “inessential” body functions such as digestion and immune response. While the stress response is necessary at times, if we have cortisol running through our bodies all day long, we will become exhausted, sluggish and more prone to infection. In the long term, it could lead to cardiovascular disease or diabetes, but in the short term it can influence the “feel good” chemical known as serotonin in our brain. In result, that can affect our sleep, our appetite and mood. To moderate the levels of cortisol in the body, ensure you are giving yourself enough time in the day to relax. Meditation, journaling, spending time with loved ones or being in nature are just a few ways to reduce stress. And to avoid over exhausting the adrenal glands, consider limiting your consumption of caffeine, alcohol and stimulants.
With the extended darkness in the winter months, our circadian rhythm—the body’s natural internal mechanism that regulates the sleep-wake cycle—is thrown off. We might find ourselves winding down earlier and waking up later. This is because our body relies on light and darkness cues to regulate our sleep-clock. Oversleeping can be as harmful as under-sleeping so try to maintain a regular schedule of 6-8 hours of sleep nightly. Set up a wind-down routine that you can begin around 8:00pm (turn your phone off, take a relaxing bath and read a book) and try not to be tempted to turn in before that. To avoid sleeping, consider a daylight lamp, which slowly turns on in the morning to provide a simulated sunrise.
Hopefully these tips can make the next winter a little easier. Remember that it’s normal to struggle at times, but if your mood is starting to significantly interfere with daily life, it is worth talking to a doctor or mental health professional to discuss further options.
Written by Niki Zarikos, CNP
Niki is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner from Toronto, Ontario. Currently working as a Clinical Research Nutrition Associate at dicentra, Niki is motivated by her interests in the nutrition of mental health, body image, addictions and holistic healing.
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